NEXT MEETING 2:00pm December 16th in the shop

Book to be reviewed, THE POLAR BEAR EXPLORERS' CLUB by Alex Bell

Image for The Polar Bear Explorers' Club


November 11th AMELIA FANG AND THE BARBARIC BALL by Laura Ellen Anderson

Image for Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball : 1

 Meet Amelia Fang. She loves playing Goblin Tag, and cuddling her pet pumpkin, Squashy. She hates going to her mum and dad's boring Barbaric Ball. Oh, and one more thing - Amelia is a vampire. This first in a new series of Amelia's abominable adventure by Laura Ellen Anderson seemed like the perfect Halloween read for our Young Bookworms. Happily it was a big hit with all our readers earning a thumbs up all round. Stand-out good bits were - discovering just how big Tagine is! the rescuing of Squashy, and the bit where Grimaldi's scythe turns into a sunflower. Everyone loved the way that the good guys include a ghost called Woo and the Grim Reaper whilst the baddies are the Angel-Kittens of Terror and a Unicorn.....Goblin Slime!

Questions from the Young Bookworms to Laura Ellen Anderson are:-

How did the name 'Barbaric Ball' come about?

How did you get the idea for Tangine?

How did you come with so many cool ideas in one book?

All the character's names have funny links - why 'Tangine'?

Why did they leave it with no clue about Mum?

How did you come up with the idea of having traditional 'goodies' (kittens and unicorns) being 'baddies'?

Are any of the characters based on real people?

Our favourite word was Pa-doing! what is yours? 



Image for The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones

Girls, kidnap, pirates, "the deed" followed by eating it! and adventure, adventure, adventure! That alongside a live Skype chat with will made for a great Young Bookworms month. As ever Will was his usual insightful and wacky self, showing us his studio (at the top of a ladder in an old brewery) and his model village (that obviously worship the picture of a 15 year old boy who would later come to write and draw "I Can Only Draw Worms"!

As for the book itself it was a resounding thumbs up with everyone really taking a liking to Mabel Jones.




September 16th THE NEVER ENDING BIRTHDAY by Katie Dale

WARNING: Potential spoilers (but not too much)

 Although it was a bit about football I think I got away with it as most people enjoyed the book. The main best bits were: Zoe really liked Ann (it's quite interesting she tends to like the characters that are not the main cast); everyone was happy to find out that mum wasn't poorly; the parents thought the CPR aspect of the plot was very clever, particularly when school said they would start teaching it; the bit involving the horse racing and being psychic was quite entertaining too. We thought the red card was a very clever touch!

The headings seemed to be a bit tricky when the books was being read out loud.

Thumbs sideways and thumbs up, but overall thumbs up. Thanks Katie.

So we wondered what Katie might have to say in answer to these questions:

I'm so thrilled your book group overall enjoyed THE NEVER-ENDING BIRTHDAY! :)

Did you write the book after someone had had their birthday?

I didn't actually write the book after someone had their birthday, but I was partly inspired by the fact that in my family our birthdays often seem to go on for days! Everyone gets cards etc on their actual birthday, but if we can't all get together on the day we might all have a birthday meal out another day, and a party tea and present hunt another day - it's great! One year I was away for Christmas so we had a whole second Christmas- turkey and tinsel and all - in May! :)

The pedants amongst us mentioned that the birthday did end! Why did you choose this title? We thought "The 4 Days in a Row Birthday"

LOL Titles are always tricky. We went through several, from MANY HAPPY RETURNS to GROUNDHOG BIRTHDAY but felt that THE NEVER-ENDING BIRTHDAY told the reader exactly what the story was about, as all great titles do. If it'd been called THE 4 DAYS IN A ROW BIRTHDAY that would've been a bit of a spoiler about when the repeated days would stop! ;)

How much effort did it take not to make the butterfly effect end too well or too badly?

The butterfly effect aspect took a lot of planning, and actually changed quite a lot as I was writing the book. I wanted the twins to have changed and grown significantly because of their repeated birthdays, and it was important to have a satisfying end so that the whole experience had been worthwhile. I'm a sucker for a happy ending, but it had to be realistic too.

What day would you have that was never ending?

Freddie - Going to Europa Park

Hollie - Never ending eating birthday cake

Zoe - The day I met my best friend.

Sam - Harry Potter World (that's Zoe's mum!)

Rhianna - The day I got my horse, Bubble. 

Katie: If I could have one day that was never-ending it'd be Christmas Day - or maybe Christmas Eve? It's a tough choice. I love having my family all together and the excitement and warmth and magic and goodwill that Christmas brings is really special. As the song says "I WISH IT COULD BE CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY!"


July 29th, STUNT DOUBLE by Tamsin Cooke

WARNING: Spoilers

Another Skype chat, this time with Stockton Children's Book of the Year winner, Tamsin Cooke. I'm still pretty certain I get much more excited than the kids do, but the best part of the day was just how many Junior Bookworms seems to have grown by.

Questions included:

Have you ever jumped from a cliff? "No!" (Tamsin showed us some epic videos of cliff jumping, rolling down hillsides and being set on fire! She also gave away the trade secret of using cardboard boxes to cushion the fall during stunts!

Why did the movie need to be cancelled? "It couldn't go ahead as the director was sent to prison!"

How did you find out about Papua New Guinea? "Lots of research on the internet. It was too expensive to travel there, but I have travelled to other places and I used those experiences.

Tamsin was intrigued by the Ropen. There have been claimed sightings of this mythical creature Richard got a little confused by the size of an elephant description and ended up getting hung up on Dumbo! (should have googled it earlier lol).

What is the next book called? "Stunt Double Jungle Curse is due out next year". We were given a sneak preview of the cover, it looks cool and we are hoping maybe we can do our next Q&A live!

Is Anna in the next book? "It's too soon for Anna to have recovered but she may be back."

Thanks Tamsin, we are really grateful you gave up part of your Saturday to join us. Though we are a bit concerned that 2 of the group have foot and ankle injuries since reading the book. Coincidence?



A trip down memory lane for Richard, but a tricky trip for the others! This was mainly due to the very formal language that was used, second nature to Richard back in the days of black and white but no so easy to deal with these days! "Bonnie enquired of the attendant who stood before them if her parents were within. Receiving an affirmative answer, she joyfully entered..." perfectly demonstrates this point and is a good example of the games some of our group played. It seem Ms Aiken was a fan of an adverb and never missed the opportunity to eagerly add one in to a sentence!

The group hadn't finished the book quite but did a brilliant job of predicting what would happen next. We also had a new cover design in light of the fact that all of our covers seemed to be different! (see below), what do you think?

Overall another thumbs up, good news.



May 13th WHO LET THE GODS OUT by Maz Evans

During our meeting to review Maz's book we put together some questions and Maz was kind enough to answer them for us:

Why Greek Gods rather than other Gods or anything else?
I have loved Greek Gods since I was a child, so they were a clear choice for my first book. They are so flawed and naughty – just like me!
Was the bit about dementia from a personal experience of purely research?
Josie’s dementia storyline is very personal to me as I cared for two grandparents with dementia. I was a lot older than Elliot and my grandparents were a lot older than Josie, but it is so hard watching someone slip away from themselves.

Why did you make the people fall in love?
Because there can’t be enough love in the world! And I think Millicent Tronglebom and Colin will be very happy together…>
How many books have you written?
So far, three: WLTGO, the sequel, SIMPLY THE QUEST and a picture book for little people, ROSIE HARKER, NOSEY PARKER. I’m currently working on the third book in the series, so watch this space. Or a space that will tell you when it’s out.
How long did it take to write? How long did it take to edit?
Books don’t take me very long to write – about six weeks or so. But editing – that’s rather different. WLTGO was edited several times over many years, but SIMPLY THE QUEST took me about eight months to edit.
I find it hard to work with adjectives, do you?
Extremely, tediously, terribly. Oh – actually, those are adverbs. So yes, I obviously do!
Is it easy to choose which person to write in?
What an interesting question. For this series, no – I was always clear I wanted to write in the 3rd person because I wanted my readers to see things that Elliot couldn’t. But the new series I’m working up has me debating this very point…
Can you run at 21mph?
I can run a mile in 21 hours.
How can in Find a way to finish my stories before I get bored?
If you’re bored, I don’t think you’re writing the right story. Stories are hard work, but you should want to tell them. If you don’t, have a think how you can make it more interesting. If you’re not excited, how will your readers feel?
Do you like reading? If, yes what?
Yes, yes, yes – although I don’t get nearly as much time to read as I would like. I read a lot of children’s fiction as a lot of my friends are authors and there is some wonderful writing around. But I also love historical fiction and funny books too. I don’t think it matters what you read, but you should try to do as much of it as possible.

Brilliant answers Maz, thanks for that, and well done to our Young Bookworms for some awesome questions too.

April 15th GOLDFISH BOY by Lisa Thompson

Easter Saturday, a busy time, but not for our budding Young Bookworms, who joined us for a live via Skype chat with author Lisa Thompson. The book  was enjoyed on the whole, though 1 person wondered why the book continued after the mystery had been solved. Lisa's answer was a good one (but to talk about it here would be a bit of a spoiler)! We also talk about the idea of red herrings (what do you think?) and one of the parents mentioned how brilliantly it had dealt with an awful lots of issues affecting children of today, (from loss to friendships, to mental health) and at the same time the tone was still appropriately light-hearted.

Lisa, who used to "make cups of tea and coffee for famous people" for a living while working at BBC radio, also shared with us lots of fun about what it's like to be an author (it's mainly in the editing apparently) and shared with us some cool author secrets. The YA aimed USA version has a much darker cover; while the Spanish title is The Incident of the Boy in the Fish Tank, as our title doesn't translate.

The USA cover.

DID YOU KNOW?: all of the characters on the cover are suspects - when you have finished it see if you can work out who is who.

It was really great to be able to chat with Lisa, it's always such a privilege to be able to talk to them and we are thrilled when they want to come and see us live!

Thanks for a great book, thanks for taking the time to chat with us and we are all really looking forward to seeing what comes next.


February saw the launch of our latest book groups, with the 1st one being our Young Bookworms. 1st book on the list was Radio Boy by Christian O'Connell.

Things don't seem to be going well for Spike when he gets sacked from Hospital Radio on page 1, but then the school announces they are launching a radio station of their own, the perfect opportunity for Spike?

NEXT MEETING 12pm FRIDAY 17th November in the shop


Book to be reviewed, KILLED AT THE WHIM OF A HAT by Colin Cotterill


Image for Killed at the Whim of a Hat : A Jimm Juree NovelThis funny, light and breezy crime story set in Thailand was very easy to read and buzzed along happily at good natured pace. Though some of us found the breezy style wore a little thin by the end of the book. Cotterill has lived in Thailand and writes very knowledgably about the people and customs. The range of interesting and cleverly drawn characters rendered the two crimes almost incidental to the real story line - that of main character crime reporter Jimm Jurree and her colourful family, the policemen, investigators and other villagers.

Overall this light and entertaining crime tale earned a thumbs up from all.





Green Dawn at St Endas by Tracey Iceton

Image for Green Dawn at St Enda's


MISTER PIP by Lloyd Jones

Image for Mister Pip I think this is the 1st book since all of our book groups started that I have really failed to enjoy, though fortunately I was in the minority! Indeed 1 member was up until 4am finishing it, partly because book group was looming but partly because they were desperate to find out what happened. One member said that it was a big help to find out that the author was a war correspondent in Papua New Guinea and she thought that much of what went on would have been based on things that he had seen! This led to a discussion about just how much of the book is likely to have some basis in truth and observed events.

Bits of it jarred with our readers and it seemed to end quite abruptly. Interestingly whilst reading the 1st chapter 1 or 2 thought the narrator was male.

Despite my lack of enjoyment reading the book (and I suspect some of that may have been due to reading bits early on whilst asleep!) I really enjoyed the discussion as ever and I felt better about it after the meeting.

Isobel couldn't find any new words this month but Jenny stepped up to the plate with MULATTO (offspring of a black and white parent, which is apparently quite widely used in American literature.


The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

Image for The Danish Girl I felt a little happier about this book once I realised that the story was based on a real character, who was a fascinating person and a pioneer. The viws of the group were mixed, though not all had managed to finish. There was an interesting interweaving between the 2 main characters and in fatc Great was at least as complicated as Lili was! I think overall this was a thumbs sideways (but only really because of the film!)

Once again words have been added to our lexicon courtesy of Isobel, including GETAS which are japanese footwear and KILL DEER BIRDS which are plovers.



Everyone Lies by A. D. Garrett

 Quite violent in parts, but if you could get past those, the story was quite a good one. Someone said if you can get through the 1st couple of chapters then it became a compelling. I wasn't expecting a particularly positive response from the group as a whole but it was still a fascinating conversation, in part about the life of a detective and what the rest of their time is like when they aren't in the middle of an adrenalin fuelled case!

It was also interesting to note while discussing the level of violence that it is often female writers who tend to be more graphic than their male counterparts! The backstory was interesting, leading us to check whether this was the 1st in the series (it is) and the connection between the 2 main characters was a good plot point. Overall, enjoyed more than expected despite how dark it was.

As ever Isobel found a few new words! BINDLE, usually the bag on a hobo's stick, but in this case we thought a bag of drugs. GNOMIC - something pithy 



The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

Alex, who was hit by a meteorite as a kid, suffers from epilepsy and bullying and from the fact that his mum is a single parent and a clairvoyant! This combination assists in his meeting with Mr Peterson and so embarks an unlikely friendship; a book group and road trip!

Funny and touching in equal measure, Gavin Extence manages again to take very interesting themes and make for a very readable book, which allowed plenty of discussion.

Gavin even did us the honour of extending Isobel's run for our "a new word in the book" slot. This month's was "QUERENT", which derives form Latin and means someone who seeks.

The works of Kurt Vonnegut received a passing mention, with some people having forgotten how bizarre his writing was.

Unanimously a hit with those at book group.


The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The group were impressed with the early chapters and how the translator kept the suspense. Zafon sets a very atmospheric scene and builds a lot of suspense. Plenty of the scenes genuinely creepy, especially when the younger sister is alone in the bedroom with the cat.

However….after the younger sister went into hospital and the parents were out of the way, the story seemed to tail off rather than buildon the creepiness.

There were parts that we either missed or didn't quite get and we wondered if the mix of Five go to the Beach with sandwiches and ginger beer followed by the scenes where the teenagers were exploring was a little tricky to get our heads around.

Once again we were glad the book had been picked for us, though quite pleased it was a short read.


Friday 7th April

The general consensus at the end of the meeting was that this was the best book the group had read in the year that we have been meeting!


The other books we have reviewed since we started are:

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